I was convinced the most likely solution to fix the "Intermittent ABS and Brake light issue" on my 2002 Ford Windstar was to replace the ABS Electronic Control Module (ECM).
Based on the prices people have paid to have the ABS ECM replaced as reported on this and other sites, I couldn't afford to have the dealer do it so I set off to repair the van on my own. This is a description of what it took to fix the problem by myself. I hope it is helpful to others.
The van had 146,000 miles on it when it started exhibiting the issue this summer. It is primarily driven in Michigan. The van's Speed Control Deactivation Switch located under the master cylinder is not leaking. There was no trace of brake fluid on the wire harness leading from it nor on/in the ABS electrical connector connected to the ABS ECM. The dealer had already performed the recall for installing the short fusible link jumper to the SCDS last year.
Module Master in Moscow, Idaho. Just recently added the FORD Kelsey-Hayes 430 ABS ECM used in this vehicle to the list of modules they repair. I was told there is a newly hired Master's degree EE graduate that found a way to fix and test the controller this summer.
My repair experience
The first problem I had to solve was how to access the ABS control unit assembly, located under the driver's seat under the car. I had to drive the van up on oil-changing ramps in my garage and then jack up the back of the van and put jack stands under it. This enabled me to have just enough room to roll under it and manuveur tools. Once the car was secure, I removed both battery cables (negative first) and got to work.
First, a splash guard was unbolted from the frame which exposed the ABS control unit assembly (composed of the Electronic Control Module (ECM), and the Hydraulic Control Module (HCM)). Brake lines were loosened from thier holders. The ECM electrical connector was removed by pulling the back handle of the connector toward the rear of the van, then gently rocking it off the remaining distance to clear the socket. The ABS control unit assembly was then unbolted and lowered with the brake lines attached.
My hope was to leave the brake lines attached to the HCM and carefully remove the ECM from it as described in repair books and online instructions as seen in instructions e-mailed to me by Module Master. However, the screws that connect the ECM to the HCM face up. There wasn't much room to use the Torx wrench with a mirror to remove the ECM screws from the HCM. In my case, this attempt was unsuccessful because the ECM screws were rusted into the HCM.
So I disconnected the ABS control unit assembly from the brake lines and removed it so I could have better access to the ECM screws. [Tip - hold down the brake pedal with a rod between the pedal and the seat before disconnecting the brake lines from the HCM - it will prevent you from draining the brake fluid reservoir like I did.]. Once the ABS control unit assembly was removed from the vehicle, I was able to take off the ECM by twisting off the Torx-head machine screw heads with a screwdriver Torx bit. I ended up breaking 3 of the 4 screw heads so finding replacement screws was going to have to be part of my repair process. The remaining threads of each screw were later removed with vice-grips and penetrating oil.
I sent in the ABS control module to Module Master. A technician upgraded and repaired it for $200 plus shipping. The technician replaced several components with more robust components (surge protection/wave shaper, better amplifier, better relay), tested it in a simulator, and cleared any error codes. It was sent back the day after they received it with a certificate with a 5 year part repair warranty. That's better than Ford's new part 1 year warranty. The programmable data that needs to be reprogrammed on a replacement unit by the dealer was still intact inside the repaired unit. No reprogramming was necessary, which saved some cash.
Also, Module Master had available for purchase a bag of replacement screws for $5. I didn't have to procure screws separately, which was a relief. This screw bag included four new screws, grease for the electronics connections, copper-based grease for the threads of the replacement screws, and a TORX wrench.
After screwing the repaired ECM back onto the freshly cleaned surface of the HCM, I mounted this ABS control unit assembly under the vehicle, connected the brake lines and the wire harness electrical connector, refilled the brake fluid reservoir with new brake fluid, and proceeded to bleed the brakes. By the way, I installed the Speed-bleeder check-valve bleed screws on the calipers and drums while I was waiting for the ECM to be repaired so I could bleed the brakes unassisted. Putting it all back together and bleeding the brake lines took me about two hours. Once that was done I replaced the battery cables (positive first) and started the van. Good: no ABS light or break light issues, but I really didn't expect any since once tested at Module Master, internal ABS error codes were cleared.
I proceeded to test the brakes on a dirt road which caused ABS activation. This worked fine. Activating and testing the ABS system on the dirt road like this can also bleed the ABS HCM of trapped air, sending the air bubbles from the back half of the HCM into the brake lines. I then bleed the brakes again to remove any additional air that might have been released from the HCM. Just to be sure there was no air, a few days after this was done, I also took it to the Ford dealer and paid about $40 for the mechanic to use the car computer to do the ABS bleed again (they also did the axle check recall). The mechanic didn't bleed the brakes! He told me the air just rises to the reservoir when this ABS bleed procedure is commanded by the computer. I didn't recognize any difference in the way the pedal felt before or after this was done so maybe my dirt road activation was all I really needed after all.
Now several weeks have gone by and the ABS light, Brake light issue has not returned and the ABS functions properly. I consider the repair a success and thank all that contributed knowledge of this issue to this thread.
P.S. If you had or have a dealer replace your ABS control unit, and you still have the old part, Module Master's will pay for it. See their web site for details.
Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 AT 8:21 PM